Its summer, and a lot of us are out doing other things and not paying attention to our computers and twitter and other sources of news. So here are a few brief recaps of Gopher news you may have missed over the last few days.
- The Gopher Women’s Tennis team has a new head coach. Minnesota hired Catrina Thompson to take over for retiring Chuck Merzbacher who led the Gophers for five seasons.
Thompson comes to Minnesota from Notre Dame where she was an assistant at her alma matter for the past four seasons. Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA Tournament all four years she was on the staff. Thompson had a very successful collegiate career at Notre Dame. She was a three-time All-American playing doubles alongside her twin sister, Christian. They would go on to record a program-record 104 double victories. She was also a two-time Most Outstanding Player at the Big East Championships and served as Notre Dame's team captain her senior season. Minnesota finished 13-12 last season and saw their season end in a first round loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament.
- Gopher Women’s Hockey associate head coach Joel Johnson was named the head coach of the US Under-18 World Championship Team for the fourth consecutive season. Under Johnson, the US has won three consecutive gold medals over Canada in the U-18 World Championships.
Its a big recruiting advantage for Minnesota as Johnson will be directly involved with USA Hockey Girls' Under-18 Select Camp that will take place June 24-30, at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, and the USA Hockey Girls' Under-18 Player Development Camp (July 15-21) and Girls' 15 Player Development Camp (July 8-12) that are taking place at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn. Several of the Gophers future, current and past players have taken place in those camps. Eight players on the 2017 Gold Medal winning roster were committed to Minnesota and will begin to play for the Gophers either this fall, or in the fall of 2018.
- Gopher senior Luca Weiland was named the 2017 Big Ten Outdoor Athlete of the Year. This spring, Wieland was named a First Team All-American and set a school record in the decathlon. He won the Big Ten title in the high jump as well.
Weiland ended his collegiate career with a third-place finish in the decathlon at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships last week. He was named a First Team All-American for the third year in a row. His final score of 8,146 was the second highest point total in Gopher history, only behind his own school record of 8,201 he set earlier this year. His high jump Big Ten Championship was his fourth career Big Ten title after previously winning decathlon titles in 2015 and 2016 and a heptathlon championship in 2015. Weiland skipped the decathalon at this years Big Ten meet to attempt to help the Gophers score more team points. He would record 20 points for the Gophers- 10 as high jump champion, six as the third-place finisher in the long jump and another four with fifth-place showing in the 4x100 meter relay.
- The NHL Draft begins this Friday, and incoming Gopher freshman Casey Mittelstadt is expected to be taken early in the first round. TSN out of Canada has its draft expert Bob McKenzie give his final prospect rankings, and he has Mittelstadt ranked sixth overall, and the highest ranked American player. Mittelstadt did not perform well at the NHL combine, but his raw talent is off the charts. As McKenzie and an anonymous scout describe from the article linked above:
Some scouts were disappointed Mittelstadt chose to use his draft year to finish his high-school career as opposed to playing in the USHL on a full-time basis. And Mittelstadt was unimpressive in the strength testing at the NHL combine, where he failed to do even one pull-up, completed just one bench press and recorded the worst VO2 max (aerobic capacity measurement) score of any prospect. At a shade under 6 feet tall but one pound shy of 200, fitness and conditioning do not appear, at this time, to be his forte.
"It's a testament to his skill, talent and potential he's still a top-five or top-six prospect," one scout said. "You can focus on what he isn't able to do because he hasn't trained as much [as other prospects] or you can easily imagine how much better he will be once he embraces strength and conditioning."
A few other future Gophers should get drafted this weekend as well. Scott Reedy who spent his last two seasons with the US National Development Team is another name to watch. He will be a freshman this fall as well.
- On Wednesday the Las Vegas Golden Knights will select the bulk of their roster as the NHL Expansion Draft takes place. Eight former Gophers are available for the Golden Knights to potentially select for their roster:
Kevin Allen of USATODAY lists ten players he think are too good to have been left unprotected by their teams, and the list includes two former Gophers in Paul Martin and Nate Schmidt:
8. Defenseman Paul Martin, San Jose Sharks: He’s plus-123 in his career, and his smart, safe playing style could be just what an expansion team needs. The only cause for pause is Martin is 36. But he could be a leader on the Golden Knights.
9. Defenseman Nate Schmidt, Washington Capitals: Coach Barry Trotz would hate to lose Schmidt, who has developed into a dependable all-around defenseman. He was impressive when he received his chance to play in the postseason. Schmidt could become a mainstay on the Vegas blue line.
- As a program, the Gophers had their best academic semester in school history this spring.